Conducted in the Faculty of Business and Economics at Macquarie University, the project, led by Dr Tim Kyng gives both consumers and advisers an improved understanding of relative costs of different retirement village contracts – allowing them to compare contracts and their features, facilitating more informed choices.
The free calculator works to help consumers and their advisers by taking the complex range of fees, including entry fee, ongoing fee and exit fees, and calculates a simple ‘equivalent monthly rent’ for the years of residence, simplifying what has often been dubbed a complex fee structure, and helping consumers to easily compare the costs of different villages.
Dr Kyng committed to developing the calculator after having his own frustrating experience while assisting his mother in choosing between retirement villages, which saw him identify a genuine need to highlight to consumers the size of the cost differences when comparing villages.
“As an expert in complex financial products, I didn’t expect to struggle to analyse retirement village contracts,” Dr Kyng says.
“I found great variation in the entry fees, ongoing fees and particularly the ‘deferred management fees’, or exit fees, across the retirement village industry.”
Dr Kyng goes on to explain that while many consumers think retirement living is like buying their own apartment, he says this often isn’t the case and that most retirement village contracts are very complex arrangements.
“It usually isn’t [like buying your own apartment], and you don’t own it,” he says. “Residents have the right to live there until they become too sick, voluntarily relocate, or die.
“It is difficult and time-consuming to get the details of how the contracts work and even more difficult to compare one with the other.
“In fact, some operators in NSW demand a $1,000 deposit for the privilege of looking at a contract. They will give you the money back if you do decide not to proceed, but it really inhibits comparison shopping.”
Seniors advocate COTA Australia has welcomed the launch of the calculator with Chief Executive Ian Yates saying he believes the new resource will alleviate some of the considerable confusion many people face when trying to decide about retirement village living, and choosing between retirement village providers.
“It is very important that older Australians are equipped with all the necessary information and understanding so that they can make a fully informed decision when choosing how and where they want to spend the later stages of their life.
“Too many older Australians still find themselves in the dark and confused when it comes to retirement village contracts and often face nasty surprise fees throughout the term of the contract or when they relocate or leave.
“This has been an issue for three decades and it is time it was fixed.”
While he says the calculator is a “very welcome addition” to resources designed to help people make informed decisions in the retirement village market, he adds that much more work needs to be done to reduce the complexity of contracts and fee structures.
“Better disclosure regulation is also needed to ensure people can easily obtain clear and detailed information at an early stage to put into the calculator,” he explains.
“Contracts, and the financial arrangements within them, should be simplified and standardised and they should be subject to regulation by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).”
Building on existing research about the complexity of contracts and the financial capability of retirement village residents, the project, now that the first version has been launched, it will work in partnership with seniors’ organisations, retirement village residents associations in NSW and Victoria, and the Consumer Action Law Centre.
The retirement village calculator project was funded by a $128,154 grant through Financial Literacy Australia.
To view or use the retirement village calculator, visit rvcalculator.org